Tax Amnesty Pays Off in Washington State

Nearly 9,000 businesses took advantage of a three-month tax amnesty program this year to pay off $321 million in back taxes they owe Washington State, Governor Chris Gregoire announced Tuesday (May 3).

The money more than doubles what the program was expected to generate and provides an unexpected windfall for lawmakers who have struggled with deep budget cuts. "I was pretty amazed. I didn't know there were this many people out there that owed us money," Representative Gary Alexander, a Republican, tells The Olympian . "That program proved to be much more successful than projected. … That is going to be very helpful to us."

Most of the companies that participated in the tax amnesty program were small businesses that report less than $1 million a year in annual gross sales, The Olympian reports. One major company, however, paid tens of millions of dollars in back taxes during the program, though Washington law forbids disclosure of the firm's identity.

Washington's successful amnesty period could attract attention from other states that want to recoup money from tax delinquents. Amnesty programs allow back taxes to be paid penalty-free by businesses and individuals while saving states the trouble of going to court.